tv [untitled] September 5, 2010 8:00pm-8:30pm PST
internation. ms. waters is a board member of the san francisco and bringing organic local food to the general public, also the author of 9 cook books and championed all local organic farms and ranches for more than 3 decades. most recent book is the art of simple cooking. mayor gavin newsom has brought fresh ideas and renewed ideas to the city and county of san francisco known internationally for his environmental records. he has paid attention to his healthy food to partner in public schools in healthy food programs. let's almost mayor gavin newsom
and ms. alice waters. [applause] >> after you. all right. the carpet even is soft and cuddling. thank you, all of you and to our great librarian, thank you very much for helping organize this and hosting this and for your kind introduction, and alice, welcome, to what i hope and expect will be very painless. but nonetheless, a very important conversation. before we get started, just logistically, about 15 minutes before our time expires, i would love to take your specific questions, send them down to the end and we'll get
as many questions, your specific questions in by the end of the hour, depending, i'll gauge the room to see how uncomfortable the room is looking, thank you and welcome for being here. now the question is, what is a new jersey born, berkeley graduate doing in 1971 opening up a restaurant with no restaurant experience? >> well, that is a good question. [laughter] a really good question. um -- i just wanted to live in a different way. i went to france. when i came back i wanted to eat differently. i wanted to be in the world a different way. i thought if i opened a little
restaurant, i could feed my friends, because they were all eating at my house and not paying. [laughter] i thought there it was. a little neighborhood space. i put it in a house. and i was naive enough to think that i could open under $10,000. we went immediately $40,000 in debt. [laughter]. >> welcome to the restaurant business. >> but i think people really helped something about the restaurant. i wasn't in it for the money. in fact, i really wasn't. thank goodness i had a guardian angel who saved me.
>> what drove you? here we are 1971, many, many years later, you seem arguably, you seem more passionate than you did yesterday. didn't know you in 1971 or even myself, what was the passion, the drive, what was it about food and what is it about food that matters so much to you? >> when i went to france, i really felt like i hadn't eaten before. i grew up in new jersey on frozen food. my mother wasn't a good cook. yes, we had to come to the dinner table. it wasn't anything to do with with, a pleasurable able, --
she didn't know anything about cooking. when i went to france, i felt like this whole world opened to me. i had an awakening, the vegetables and cafes and warm bread and oysters on the half shell, little cafes where i could hang out with my friends and have conversations. it was woven into the fabric of life. it wasn't unusual to go to the market a couple of times of day because you wanted the fresh vegetables. you ate with your family and friends. they came home and had a 2-hour lunch with their family. i fell in love.
i came back. it was as simple as that. i started to cook. fortunately, i picked up elizabeth david's book. i digested everything she told me. a lot about eating and seasoning food that is right. i connected in that way. i was able to feed my friends. they loved this. reu didn't really know how to cook. i made a lot of chocolate moose. that led into everything else. i have been on the fringes of the free speech movement in berkeley before. i was ascended by the way
people gathered and ate. i just thought, there must be a better way. a more delicious way. [laughter]. so i thought, well, i'll open a restaurant and feed my friends and their friends. who knew that this would be something so strikingly different than what was going on out there. >> here we are in the 1970s, is it the fast foodification? mcdonalds? burger king, they'll have it their way? >> i was looking for real food. i was really looking for the green beans that i had in
france. you go to the market and couldn't find the green beans. i thought, those weren't the green beans. they didn't taste like the french. i had a passion about flavor. philosophically, i wasn't thinking about where the sustainable farms were. i was looking for taste and ended upright there on the doorstep of the local [inaudible], so it happened organically? [laughter] did you have a lot of choice? was there the network? organic farmers all around?
>> closest was frozen. they were hanging up there. they were fishing and food out in front. i started looking in the markets, first. then um -- a friend who ate at the restaurant said, i see you want radishes and you want french things, i am growing french breakfast radishes in my backyard. i said bring them in, we can make a trade. you can have lunch. i planted in my backyard and grew salad, the infamous
mescaline salad. it was a little mix of wild greens brought in by the peasant to the market outside of nize. >> so it happened like that. when you started searching for sustainable produce, not the way it is produced or harvested, but sustainable in being available seasonably, consistently, there were -- if you commitment to the next 5 then? >> that did ultimately happen. we with thought we could get these seeds and a plot of land and have everything we want.
we quickly learned we were not farmers. [laughter] and the gofers got the best of us. [laughter] we planted in this little one micro climate in amadora. >> why there? >> because somebody had a plot of land, we'd put in the seeds and all of these things. we learn it had hard way, and we decided that we would have um -- somebody assigned to the job of going out of the forger and looking for the farms that were growing the food we with wanted. isabella was the first who ultimately led to the opening of the san francisco farmer's market. she new some farms, a few,
already. she was cooking at the restaurant and knew what we wanted. and we started that way, just a couple. now we have 85 different people we buy from during the course of the year. some of them are very little and some of them grow all of our salads. >> any farmer's markets back then? 1970s? >> i forget about the timing of these things. i think, probably they were given with a couple of people, you knew in the 1970s. >> there are critics at the time. typically restaurants? were there critics in the agricultural industry?
people that didn't like the message? >> there were critics, i didn't pay any attention. something very important happened back then, in the year, the early 1980s. we celebrated the 20s. the anniversary of the produce. it brought together farmers and we had our first meeting 25 years ago at greens. and um that sort of lead to the following year, where we cooked for the farmer. the next year there were 50 farmers. then the next year, there were like 200 farmers.
we had it down at the museum in oakland. the oakland museum. eurt became a huge successful event. >> what kind of descriptive direction were you giving some of these farmers? everything is organic. certified this, certified that. i imagine there is a lot of false advertising. >> i suspect there is. i am looking for people that really, really care. really believe in this. it is not so much for me. you know that, to the letter certifications. it is know that we share the
same values. it is a beautiful thing. you get to know these farmers and what they care about. >> let's talk about values. food and values. that is what makes this conversation, i think, unique. not food in the context to satisfy hunger, the philosophy with food. what is your value orientation that relates to food? what is it that drives, we are going to talk more about soul food nation, school of the arts, the manifestations of this. what are those values? >> i have this theory, that um, that when you eat everyday, that there are a set of values that come with the food that we eat. so when you are out there, eating in fast food nation, and
you are kind of, you know, eating in your car, quickly grabbing something, you are digesting, the sort of advertisement, the message from the person making that food. they are telling you, basically, that food should be the same no matter where you are. and that hamburgers and hot dogs are actually good for you. and they are telling you advertising can first value. there is always more where that came from. don't worry, resources are infinite. they are telling you food should be available 24 hours a day and eating with your family and friends is not important.
that food should be fast, cheap, and easy. >> right. >> so i just understood a whole different set of values by eating differently. >> what are those values? >> food is precious. that um --, it is important to restore the land because that is where our food comes from. farmers are precious. and that um, nourishing ourselves and others is an activity that is unlike anything else. and that there is um, something really important to offering food to people that don't have it.
and i could go on. >> and those values led you to desire to educate others to the one you were sharing with many other people at the time and turned your attention to educating a generation that you referred to as the first generation, not to sit down at the family table. and you have discussed a lot of what that means. it is actually an interesting point of view. this generation hasn't had that construct that previous generations as it relates to the family relationships around the table. you started the edible schoolyard. a movement that transcends your first schoolyard that happens to be here, the city and county of san francisco.
talk to us a little bit about that. [laughter]. >> are you speaking of the garden project at the san francisco county jail? >> that was a second step. i met katherine sneed about 20 years ago. she had this project, the garden project at the san francisco county jail. she called me up one day and said, you know, we are growing vegetables out here and if we grow vegetables the way you like to have them grown, would you buy them from us? i said sure. she said, the only thing>>
local jail owned and operated. you were that definitive? >> i have had lots of experiences with farming, over the phone, you don't know what to expect. she said i want you to come out and see this project before you make a decision. i went out to the jail in san baru.n. o. she had 7 acres of land planted. she said tell alice about what is going on here. this one guy said hey, you know, i have only been working in the garden for one day and this is the best day of my life. 21 years old, in and out of jail a couple of days.
i said i am buying the vegetables. [laughter] doesn't matter to me. it turned out to be an incredible relationship. what was so beautiful, it is not just the growing of the food that was transformational, but the offering of that food to the homeless of san francisco, that changed everything. there were, you know these guys would be let out of jail and wanted to stay in so they could work with katherine. she opened up a halfway house garden. we became very good friends and continued to buy from them. ultimately the graduate withs from that project went into the tree core and planted trees and also came to the farmer's
market and sold vegetables for a period of time. i figured if you can do it in the jail, maybe you can do it in the schools. [laughter]. call me foolish. >> so you are driving along, that idea was generated or was it generated when you started looking at this old abandoned site? >> all of that. it all gelled. i had been a montessori teacher. i have always believed in public education. it is the only place where you can touch every single child. it is our last truly democratic institution.
they could grow up learning food values. >> you opened up the first one at mlk middle school. what was the reaction when you contacted the principal, i have an idea, that concrete parking lot, i want to convert it into an edible garden and educate your children of slow food of all things. >> he was very charming and wonderful and open and desperate. desperate. he wanted us to come in and beautify the school. he knew chez panisse had something to do with gardens. he hadn't eaten here. this person could be useful, let her come in and see what she can do.
so when we walked around and talked, okay, well with, you know, i'm prepared to do a garden, i'm not sure i'm ready to feed every child a real lunch. he said we better wait a bit. i said it is all or nothing. he said i'll get back to you. it took him 6 months and then he called back and said i have been working with parents and the teachers and i think we are ready to have you come. that is the vision is to feed every child at school. >> and you were able to accomplish that? >> yeah. [laughter]. not yet. we will. we will. it is very hard to work in a public school system like the one in california. >> sure. >> because we don't have any money for books, to pay
teachers, to fix up a kitchen. >> who paid for the capitol work to rip up the asphalt and plant the garden? >> me. i just called friends. i said would you lend me the money. a couple of friends wondered what people, [inaudible] for the literacy and suzi [inaudible], that was the beginning. we started a chez panisse foundation. its purpose was to raise money. >> the genesis came from the idea of the edible schoolyard? did the reaction, what was the reaction of the parents?
were the parents suspect? were they concerned you were invading on the curriculum? did they think this was a waste of time for their kids? how did people respond? >> we did everything we could bring them into this delicious way of thinking, both the kids and the parents. so we weren't, we used to bring math classes over to chez panisse and feed them lunch. the teachers were having a meeting and i wanted them to incorporate these ideas. we had to feed them to them. we invited the principals for dinner and lunch. it was all through drawing them
in through a pleasurable experience. once you get hooked, you see, on the flavors, you give very willingly. [laughter]. >> i want to get to soul food in a second. how do you answer? you pick a carrot? what is the education? what is the narrative? >> the math teachers bring their kids out into the garden. >> math? >> math, into the garden, we have a couple they decide they are measuring the beds. the kids are having a good time doing this thing because they were in their boots in the grass and picking a couple of
ras berries on the way. hands on education is a way to really make an impression and have the education. so they are doing that. they are counting snails. >> counting snails. >> you know, there are so many ways. how many buckets of water does it take to water the bed? it is just very, um -- exciting, kind of process that gets them engaged in the math, in the class. you do the same in the kitchen. you are studying geography, in india, finding where the spices come from. pounding them and sprinkling
them. >> i can imagine the history and social studies. >> you could be having a language class, it is all in spanish and making the food. it is an english class. >> they are not just cultivating the food, planting the produce, they are actually in a kitchen. >> are there such things as kitchens? >> we took over one of the bungalows. we asked an artist to paint it. we recycled and made cabinents. i made it a place where they like to do